everal Sri Lankan women activists, including prominent artistes, braved incessant rains in Colombo on Wednesday to gather at Galle Face on behalf of future generations, amidst the country’s growing political crisis. “We are basically a group of frustrated, concerned women who have come together for our children,” dramatist Tracy Holsinger said, adding that the the group had no political affiliations. “If we don’t stand up and say something now, this will go by. And we are just going to normalise everything”, she said.
The protesters assembled at Galle Face at 3.00 pm and marched through the pouring rain to the Presidential Secretariat to deliver a letter to President Maithripala Sirisena. The letter highlighted their concerns regarding the political and economic chaos in the country, the irresponsibility and immorality of leaders, and the resultant threat to the nation’s children. It noted: “Leaders of this country need to be elected in accordance with the constitution of this country. Thus without marring the truth by bringing in personal likes, dislikes or conflicts; we demand that you provide our citizens and our country with a stable and responsible political solution in keeping with our principles of governance.”
"we demand that you provide our citizens and our country with a stable and responsible political solution in keeping with our principles of governance"
The letter went on to condemn “the national disgrace” and “international spectacle” surrounding the ongoing constitutional crisis. “Mr. President, we and our children have only this country to live in. If this country is dragged into an economic and political abyss, it is we citizens who have to suffer the consequences,” it stated.
Prominent artistes, film stars and writers joined the demonstration, which featured a character swaddled in yards of saree cloth with slogans in all three languages highlighting the protesters’ concerns for their children, country and future. Kaushalya Fernando, Chandani Senevirathne, Ruwanthie de Chickera, Nadie Kammallaweera and Ama Wijesekara were among the artistes who fronted the effort.Heavy showers marked the commencement of the event, but the rains failed to unhinge the spirit and persistence of the cause. The protesters declined transportation offers and proceeded to march to the President’s Office, unsheltered and unfazed.
"Leaders of this country need to be elected in accordance with the constitution of this country"
During the demonstration, the women stood along the Galle Road and expressed their silent fury by unfurling their questions and demands inscribed on cloth in Sinhala, Tamil and English. As the rains persisted, so did they. “Is the country your playground?”, “Have you forgotten the promises of 2015?”, “Do you have no conscience?”,were some of the scarlet-sprawled inquiries that caught the attention of passers-by.
As the activists advanced forward, five women took the lead, hand in hand, symbolizing unity amidst the “confusion and chaos” mentioned in the letter. Although small in number, the determination of the protesters who marched together as mothers and parents, was an inspiring sight.
The women expressed their disappointment with authorities who should be following the ethics, morals and justice taught to children. They questioned why Buddhist philosophies like honesty, delivering promises and principled behaviour, which govern the majority of the nation, appeared irrelevant and insignificant to
those in power.
If we don’t stand up and say something now, this will go by
Mr. President, we and our children have only this country to live in
The movement sought more than just answers. They said nothing would justify the state of distrust and frustration now separating the people from their leaders. They demanded responsibility and the immediate rectification of the sequence of defamatory events that were set in motion by “a single arbitrary and unilateral decision taken by (the president) on the 26th of October.”
The letter raised concerns about the “anti-democratic” decisions and the consequent halt of foreign aid, economic sanctions, the negative popularity gained internationally, etc. So while being well aware of such economic, international and social impacts of poor governance, they were also loud and clear in what changes they wanted for the country and for their children.“Mr. President, it is already very late. We demand that you do your job and stop this country from sliding further into darkness. What lies before you is your responsibility by a country and by the children of this nation,” the letter stressed.
"If this country is dragged into an economic and political abyss, it is we citizens who have to suffer the consequences"
The protest also highlighted the absurdity of raising children in a land governed by persons who embrace the very vices that mothers struggle to protect them from. Although driven by an indignation for the crises unfolding in the political arena, at the heart of all the activity was a mother pleading, “Please, in all of this madness, take a moment to think of the innocent children who will have to grow up in this country that you have begun to create.”
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